Smote Reverser by Oh Sees

Release date: August 17, 2018
Label: Castle Face Records

John Dwyer may be reaching the levels of Robert Pollard for releasing new albums these days, but on the basis of recent albums such as his Damaged Bug release, and his main band Thee Oh Sees Orc, there seems to be no let up in the quality stakes. Dropping Thee, and going by the name Oh Sees for new album Smote Reverser, there is again no drop in quality. In fact this time, he goes over and beyond and delivers one of the finest albums of his career.

Picking a favourite Thee Oh Sees album is a difficult choice, and with Dwyers constant search for change, no two albums ever sound similar. The same can be said for Smote Reverser, which this time channels a heavy metal flavour of all things. Whether Dwyer has been listening to Judas Priest or not in his spare time, there is no mistaking that sound on ‘Enrique El Cobrador’ with a galloping vocal rhythm taken straight from NWOBHM.

It’s not all in your face metal though, and in the main this album is remarkable funky. Keen listeners will already have latched onto ‘C’, which found itself given away as a flexi-disc in one the music monthlies. The song is representative of a lot of this album, with drawn out funky moments veering into atonal psych. For the ultimate perversion of this sound you only need to listen to ‘Anthemic Aggressor’, which batters your senses on its elongated coda.

Oh Sees do blistering heat on here too, with ‘Overthrown’ matching an early thrash metal intensity. It’s this recognition of the heavier side of music which makes Smote Reverser such an interesting listen, and by keeping that intensity as its core, it allows Dwyer to veer off on odd tangents. Little is as it seems, even on ‘Last Peace’, which is on the surface a seemingly simple little ditty, but underneath its dark surface it pulls in a keening guitar sound which bells in your ear, prodding at it until it finally hits its stride in a glorious harmonic choral freak-out. Once the bass kicks in your sent off on a completely different trip from those opening few minutes. It’s nothing short of stunning and serves as one of the crowning glories of this excellent album.

Among all the atonal noise, and freak-out metal, there are still times when the playful attitude that Thee Oh sees have shines through. ‘Moon Bog’ carries with it a sea-sick whooziness, born of a nursery rhyme mentality, whilst later on they go full on  prog with ‘Flies Bump Against Glass’, which sounds an absolute world away from those early tracks. It’s the sheer diversity of the album which keeps your attention, yet underneath it all is that rambunctious energy that can only come from this most wayward of bands. In time they will be seen as pioneers and innovators. Now we sit back and enjoy the ride.

There are few bands this long into their career that can even remember why it is they started making music in the first place, let alone constantly searching for new sounds. Oh Sees are an anomaly, and continue to release albums which continue to test. Their defining grace is that they own a particular sound, which once you are hooked, are in for the long haul. This allows them to continue to push the boundaries of their music in ever fluctuating lie-ups. Deep down it’s the Dwyer show though, and once you have been let in, he will not let you go easily. A career highlight among many.

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